For twenty years Memory Chirasauta (44) has been enjoying farming with the help of her husband Tawanda until 2020 when her husband succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic leaving her with a burden of doing the agricultural activities with the help of her children.
Tawanda’s death brought significant changes to Chirasauta’s life, problems started to mount with the deceased’s brothers taking control of the farming activities and dictating everything that Memory does.
“My husband’s death brought a lot of challenges with it, we had carried our farming projects as a family. Little did I know that there are vultures waiting to pounce on our success. Problems started when some family members who are still entrenched into the oppressive cultural times told me that they are now managing the farming activities.
“At first I thought they wanted to assist in the procurement of inputs and other issues relating to the farm alas they wanted to take all the projects because I am a woman. I resisted the move but their argument was I don’t own anything because of gender. The farm is registered in my husband’s name and we were customarily married,” Chirasauta said
Like many Zimbabwean women, Chirasauta has no ownership rights to the farm despite decades of working on the land. They face resistance from to their rights to own land chiefly from family members.
Female farmer, Theresa Sibanda of lower Gweru says women play a significant role that needs to be interrogated at all levels.
“The issue of land ownership is important and needs a critical analysis from all spheres be it politically or economically. Policy makers should understand that because women perform most of the labour on farmlands, they often appear to have a deeper relationship with the land than men. We need to be considered in these decisions,” said Sibanda
Social commentator, Owen Dhliwayo says due to weak land tenure women are unduly impacted by climate change and it affects issues relating to food security.
“Women are excessively impacted by climate change, climate shocks are exacerbated by weak land tenure. Land rights are important as they create a foundation from which women adapt to the impacts of climate change. The foundation reinforces issues around food security, economic resilience and it also provides stability. Land rights in the context of climate change lessen the impacts of climate change, including gender-based violence, increased food insecurity and the displacement of people, that are gender specific,” said Dhliwayo
Taurai Muchadenyika, a legal practitioner said the constitution provides for equality in relation to the holding of all forms of property.
“The supreme law says everyone in any part of the country has the right to procure, hold and dispose of all forms of property, either individually or in association with others irrespective of their sex, gender or marital status. The country has also ratified international and regional conventions that seek to promote women’s rights,” said Muchadenyika
Patriarchal beliefs have disenfranchised women from owning land thereby reducing their access to resources and this in turn has a negative impact on environment and sustainable development.
According to the Ministry of Gender and Women Affairs Ministry has around nine million women out of a total population of 14 million and over 70% of them are living in poverty.
These women are the agents of change in communities and they are usually the first ones to accept conservation programmes, but due to their lack of ownership of land, this deters their participation in things like availing land for demonstration of conservation agriculture.
Secure land tenure gives women the incentive to carry out long term mitigation and adaptation activities, for example, irrigation infrastructure while broadening their asset base which means they will be less vulnerable to climate change.
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